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Star Trek Voyager review – Friendship One

Summary: A well meaning but predictable and uninspiring rehash of standard Star Trek material.

Between the Vidiians and the Maalon, the disfigured race preying on other species and using their problems as justification has become a

star trek voyager Friendship One

"We come in bulky spacesuits"

staple of Voyager. But where the Vidiians were compelling as both monsters and victims, the alien species of Friendship One are merely a series of victims. The episode repeatedly suggests that they’re our victims and that Voyager should somehow feel guilty for their conditions, but Voyager had nothing to do with the launching of the probe and all the probe did was provide them with advanced technology meant to serve beneficial purposes. Their inability to properly use that technology was their own fault and responsibility.

That leaves us with the same Star Trek setup we’ve seen a thousand times before. There’s the bad ruthless alien, the potentially good but uncertain alien and the human interest female. Our crew attempts to convey our humanity to the aliens through personal exchanges which humanize them. The good alien helps Voyager thwart the schemes of the bad alien. There’s the red shirt whose off the cuff conversations about family make it certain that he’ll die before the episode is over. We’ve seen the same material used – in more innovative ways- before; and without any standout performances or dialogue, the show has little to contribute except the irony of Friendship One itself as a defense of the importance Prime Directive.

Though it doesn’t really accomplish this either since the problem wasn’t so much that the technology was given out but that it was given out blindly and without supervision. And they’re only saved by more interference from the Federation. This isn’t a very convincing criticism of Starfleet or exploration. And Janeway’s final statement about exploration not being worth the lives lost sounds ridiculous and bizarre since exploration, like it or not, runs precisely on those who gave their lives to see over into the next horizon. Star Trek has always acknowledged this and paid tribute to it, as recently as the far superior Voyager episode, One Small Step. Indeed Janeway’s entire policy has been to conduct exploration rather than a straight route home.

Friendship One had the potential to construct an intricate commentary on Starfleet and Voyager’s own mission using the trial of Friendship One, but One Small Step did a better job of handling that material. So all that was left was a lesson about helping people, but as in Insurrection that lesson was buried by the generic undistinguished nature of the people who needed to be helped, as well as their persistent whining about “nobody understanding how hard it is for them” which was more than a little reminiscent of the Baku’s touting their advanced spiritual values. Except where the Baku’s sense of superiority seemed to actually come from sort of accomplishments no matter how questionable, the FO species accomplishment was to be murderous, miserable and diseased.

Janeway’s initial incompetence e.g. failing to detect both an alien civilization and the people living there, even though Voyager had encountered a close cousin of this same state of affairs in Dragon’s Teeth, and then attempting to push Brin into giving up the hostages instead of demonstrating their good faith first finally and unexpectedly gives way to good command skills when she actually does the sane, practical thing and shockingly enough pulls off a successful rescue mission to release the hostages. Unfortunately by this point the hostages have developed Stockholm Syndrome and demonstrating very little regard for the fact that one of their friends and crewmembers was just murdered (Paris argues that it was only one man who did it, conveniently overlooking that it was their leader and that no one else found the act objectionable in the least) jostle Janeway into risking Voyager to clean up the planet’s atmosphere.

Considering that these people have anti-matter weapons and anti-matter missiles, it seems odd that Janeway doesn’t just propose giving

star trek voyager Friendship One

Friendship means saying "Sorry we blew up your planet"

them instructions for constructing their own ships and evacuating themselves. Or for that matter since it was doubtful that they could have produced anti-matter without leaving their planetary orbit, they should have had their own starships. Not that doing so would be a very smart idea, since the last thing the Delta Quadrant needs is another set of Vidians murdering and torturing people while whining about how hard their lives are. Voyager was quite ready to accept the Vidiians justifications for their actions and certainly has no trouble accepting the Friendship One species sense of self-righteous victimization. Wonder if it’ll make Lt. Carey’s family feel any better that his killers had “a bad childhood” ?

But this is characteristic of Friendship One as a paint-by-the numbers episode that relies on reusing Star Trek formulas to produce a predictable episode whose values are barely skin deep. After VGR of STTMP, the Mars spacecraft of One Small Step, the old American ship of Casino Royale and now Friendship One it seems a few too many old Earth space program vehicles have gone a lot further than they were supposed to go and it really strains all credulity that two of these would have ended up in the Delta Quadrant. Reusing this notion cheapens One Small Step and has no real purpose since this episode would have worked just as well if the aliens had found any advanced technology which they misused and blame all aliens for their own foolishness.

In part it seems Friendship One is introduced as a possible buildup for Series V. The entire fairly extraneous conversation about the timetable for the probe’s launch and Tuvok’s comment about its launch “preceding Starfleet” seems like it might have been planted as possible background for Series V. Or at the very least it may have been informed by the Series V premise. And I suppose it is a measure of how little Friendship One has to offer that its most intriguing aspect involves sifting a minor piece of dialogue for clues to the premise of the next series. And it may well be a clue as to how little Voyager’s seventh season has to offer as well.

Star Trek Voyager review – Prophecy

Summary: An uninspired patchwork episode composed of weak gags and an unfocused plot that goes nowhere and serves mainly as an excuse to show off some Klingon costumes in time for sweeps. The diagnosis is now clear, 7th season syndrome.

The saddest words ever said are, what might have been. And at times what might have been begins to look like it might become Voyager’s eulogy. The post-Prophecy

star trek voyager prophecy

Fifty Quatloos against the newcomer

watching party consisting of sour bread and chlorine water is definitely one of those times. It’s not that Star Trek in general doesn’t screw up their payoffs more often than not. Certainly every Star Trek fan can name half a dozen two parters in which the first part was far superior to the concluding second part. But Voyager just seems to have a special talent for it and a talent for doing it in the clumsiest way possible.

Voyager’s entire premise has rested on it being lost in the Delta Quadrant and completely cut off from Starfleet and the Alpha Quadrant species. So when it came time for the big sweeps episode in which Voyager contacts Starfleet that all the fans and viewers were looking forwards to; Voyager’s writers of course gave us a comedy routine co-starring Andy Dick that featured two EMH’s trying to figure out where the controls are. Now in retrospect Message in a Bottle had some funny bits in it, but with that episode Voyager’s writers turned their entire premise into a joke. If you’re expected to take Voyager’s plight seriously and their struggle to reach Earth at the centerpiece of the whole platter; then a payoff episode that takes this into account would have helped shore up Voyager’s already rickety premise.

But when all is said and done it’s a whole lot easier to justify Message in a Bottle than it is to justify the horrendously dreary Prophecy whose plot has about exactly 5 seconds worth of sense and even less time devoted to material that can actually hold your interest. It is as if the writers put some old Klingon episode videotapes into the VCR, took notes on what happened in those episode, tore off those notes and put them into a hat, picked them randomly out of a hat and turned that into an episode. And indeed the story and script credits for Prophecy, which feature more writers than the average UPN show has on staff, seems to bear that out. There’s the obligatory Klingon drinking scene, the obligatory duel, the obligatory nasty Klingon, the obligatory Klingons sitting in shadows and plotting scene. It’s like a Klingon clip show and like a clip show, Prophecy has no purpose except to kill 40 minutes without actually coming up with original material.

It’s always tough to come up with sweeps episodes and since Voyager has never featured real Klingons, the producers decided that since it’s the 7th season they can cash in their Klingon chit and do a Klingon episode. Unfortunately their attempt fell into the “overdrawn story check” category– this is when Star Trek writers churn out an uninteresting story which they think will work if it stars an important Trek alien. Essentially, they believe that an awful script will be liked by the viewers if instead of the Alien of the Week, it features Romulans, Vulcans, Borg or Klingons. And worst of all, the writers think that viewers are entertained just by having Klingons come on screen and do Klingon things, which avoids the need for actually having real drama or conflict in the episode. Just toss off some Klingon words, show Klingons getting drunk, talk vaguely about honor and show some Klingons getting into a fight.

The only flaw in the “overdrawn story check” is that it really is overdrawn. What turned the Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans and Co. into epic Star Trek aliens were the

star trek voyager prophecy

Yes the episode can get worse than this

actors who played them and the stories they were featured in. Putting pointy ears on some guy and sending him out to talk tonelessly about logic or putting another guy into a Klingon costume and have him bellow about honor is great for conventions. It’s a cute touch to put in an episode or two but it never substitutes for a real story. It certainly won’t save an episode that doesn’t have a good story to begin with. And so when the writers attempt to cash an “overdrawn story check”, it bounces and the result is a weak episode. Worse, overuse of the same aliens in this same way will eventually lead to the point where no one wants to see any of these aliens again because they’ve become associated with some very bad material. And if there is one single Star Trek species that has been endlessly abused in this way, it’s the Klingons.

So of course when it comes time for sweeps, the producers note that they’ve never featured real Klingons and so they decide, with network prompting, to do an episode featuring real Klingons. Of course there’s only so much money to go around, a Klingon episode would be perfect. But it has to take place on Voyager because shooting Klingon interiors could get expensive very quickly. It can’t involve battles because special effects are expensive, so we limit it to a short cheap battle at the beginning. So now that the story has to be on Voyager, we have to find a reason for the Klingons to be on Voyager all the time. What if they’re refugees? But why would refugees travel all the way to the Delta Quadrant and still keep going. Let’s say they’re dissatisfied with the current Klingon way of life and they’re on a quest for something. Maybe it’s religious. Something Voyager has what they want. This introduces the motivation and the reason for them to be on Voyager. But what does Voyager have that they want? Technology is too simple and easy. No it has to be something Voyager can’t give up or replicate. Say what about tying B’Elanna and her pregnancy into this. Remember that old episode idea pitch we were kicking around about aliens who listen to Chakotay’s teaching and think he’s like Jesus and remember that Dragon’s Teeth episode and we just combine the two. Let’s say the Klingons think the baby is their golden child and there are debates over faith and eventually some of them try and take over Voyager while B’Elanna reinforces her connection to her Klingon heritage. Perfect, it’s a winner. And let’s have a B story about Kim being sexually harassed by a Klingon woman and Neelix and Tuvok bunking together just like in college. It’ll be completely hysterical…and they say we don’t know Star Trek!

And so we take a story that no one would have paid attention to twice if it had involved the aliens of the week, add some Klingon uniforms and presto, a sweeps episode. But best of all, a cheap sweeps episode. Best of all a confused and unfocused episode pasted together from half a dozen story ideas that lumbers around from scene to scene like one of the photonic drunks from Fair Haven never having the faintest idea where it’s going. As a script Prophecy is at best a first draft, a script version that still doesn’t come together, where the stitching is obvious and a lot of work still needs to be done. Unfortunately if there’s one thing all the Star Trek series spin-offs 7th seasons have in common, is the dreaded 7th season syndrome. Prophecy may feature the Klingons suffering from a fatal disease, but the episode and the season itself suffers from a much more fatal disease. TNG had it, DS9 had it and now Voyager has it. The symptoms involve poorly thought out scripts, episodes that look like fanfic somebody accidentally filmed, episodes where everyone is completely out of character and episodes that have no point whatsoever. Basically this comes down to writer’s fatigue.

In a normal working day, you get up and go to work. In the early portions of your day, you’re still getting settled in, midway through you get comfortable and do your best work and towards the end you’re tried and just want to get out of here and do whatever it is you plan to do after hours. Now imagine that you still have to work after that until about midnight without any real supervision or quality control. Now that is essentially what Star Trek’s 7th seasons tend to look like. Shoddy work done by tired people who just want to get it over with. In this state of mind Lineage, Prophecy and driving your car off a cliff can seem like good ideas. In this state of mind a script doesn’t have to have any coherency, one scene doesn’t have to lead into another and symmetry is the first thing to go out the window. The key theme is just to get things done quickly with the first idea that comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to fill the void. And so this is where an episode that features Dr. Crusher being haunted by an erotic alien ghost that sucks away her energy, or the episodes that feature Dukat rampaging around with glowing red eyes or some of this season’s Voyager episodes come from.

And so this week Klingons stumble into Voyager. They announce that they’re searching for their messiah who will rebuild the empire, yet their goal appears to be to

star trek voyager prophecy

"Why don't you people make up a new prophecy and go bug some other pregnant half-Klingon lady?"

meet and greet the messiah’s mommy and then go settle a planet decades away from the Empire while twice abandoning their only means of returning back home to the Empire and abandoning their messiah as well. Then it turns out they have a lethal virus gets past Voyager’s biofilters and the Doctor pronounces incurable and which the Doctor is then able to cure completely in a few hours. But of course they’re really here to serve as source material for gags and funny Klingon moments. Remember that joke about Kim being unlucky with women, well it gets even funnier when a Klingon woman pursues him. Remember that same joke on TNG, well it’s even funnier here. Oh and of course the always hysterical Neelix gets into the act. You haven’t lost all desire for food until you’ve seen Neelix making out with a Klingon woman three times his size. And the jokes just keep on coming. Too bad they even manage to make Message in a Bottle look like a comedic masterpiece.

But back to the plot, what is the plot again? Oh that’s right these Klingons think Torres’s unborn 3/4rs human fetus is the Messiah so naturally they blow up their ship and board Voyager for a short trip to a planet they can settle in the Delta Quadrant. Despite believing that the Federation is their sworn enemy, the Captain in no time at all risks all his crew’s lives on the assumption that Janeway will save them and once on Voyager puts his lives and their lives in her hands. Even the TNG Klingons wouldn’t trust Picard a fraction of that much. But on Voyager, the Klingons, like Q and the Borg bow before the self-importance of Janeway and humble themselves before her.

Then it turns out they have a virus for no particular reason. Then Paris agrees to fight a Klingon in a battle to the death, even though there’s no reason to believe he would be so stupid. Then Paris with a few days training turns out to be able to handle a trained Klingon warrior. Then that same warrior takes over the transporter room and nearly takes over Voyager by beaming its entire crew to the surface. If it was this easy to take over Voyager, why didn’t Neelix do it last week? Of course it all gets settled and the Klingons settle down on a planet decades away from home to which they can now never return. Of course this all means we won’t see them next week, which indeed is what really drives this plot. Sure actually having consequences to actions that occur in an episode and having some logic to it might be a nice idea. But hey who needs plot logic when you have Klingons. And next week there’s a spatial anomaly, I can’t wait. Can you?

Next week: There’s a spatial anomaly and ships firing on Voyager. Are they indeed up to no good? Will Voyager escape the anomaly or stay in there for the last 10 remaining episodes of the series. No one knows.

Star Trek Voyager review – Repression

For all the years Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant, Tuvok has been suspicious of a Maquis revolt. In Worst Case Scenario it was Tuvok who even started a holographic simulation of what might happen if the Maquis attempted to take over Voyager. As the paranoid and borderline fascist security officer Tuvok has acted to protect Voyager from the Maquis threat and now ironically enough it turns out that the Maquis threat comes from Tuvok himself. This is an interesting notion and unfortunately it’s about the only interesting notion in the whole episode.

In part this is because the subject matter just isn’t all that gripping. Voyager’s premise of Maquis working together with Starfleet was a basic

star trek voyager repression

Put these on, the episode will look better

error because while the Maquis were relevant in the Alpha Quadrant where their politics vis a vis the Federation’s peacemaking with Cardassia meant something, in the Delta Quadrant they’re just guys who like to wear leather under their combadges. Without the Bajorans, Cardassians and the DMZ around, any episode involving the Maquis has a distant, remote feel to it. Worse yet, Repression feels like it should have been a first or second season episode, or as if it were written by someone whose impressions of Voyager are fixed from around those seasons. Its entire notion of Maquis paranoia and tension which might have served to smooth out a Maquis integration storyline years ago seems fairly retrograde by the seventh season. Finally, Repression makes the key, stunning mistake of being a detective story where the real culprit is out of reach, out of touch and out of communications range leaving the episode a story without any accessible villains and making it a generally uninvolving display.

From a charming beginning featuring Paris and Torres trying to watch 3D movies on the holodeck to the early investigation, Repression manages to generate a certain paranoid resonance by drawing out the mystery so that it actually seems intriguing. Voyager has never had a really good detective story, despite several lackluster attempts, and for the first twenty minutes Repression seems almost ready to provide one. The Maquis in the Delta Quadrant may not be the most compelling subject matter but the notion of buried tensions on board Voyager or some deep dark secrets in the Maquis past had plenty of potential for a good story. However once Repression begins to veer away from the actual mystery and towards yet another “Tuvok InnerConflict Story(TM)”, it becomes doomed to feature scenes of Tuvok desperately scrabbling at his face as if he is trying to dig his brain out with his fingernails. Twenty minutes of Tim Russ staggering about in a frenzy, twitching his face as if there are ants under his skin and wandering around with a glazed psychotic expression might be entertaining at a Halloween party but closeup shots of Tuvok’s frenzied expression don’t make good dinner entertainment and contrary to what Russ and the director may have thought, they make really poor drama.

In Star Trek, SpockData characters such as Spock, Data, Worf or Odo have been unique, intriguing but potentially dangerous. They were marked by their restraint contrasted with inner personal conflicts. They were also marked by a high standard of acting. Voyager on the theory that more is [more], has 3 SpockData characters on board and also has Tim Russ; and where Nimoy, Spiner or Auberjonois might have chosen restraint or dignity, Tim Russ chooses to act like a raving psycho for 15 minutes. Where a restrained performance from Russ might have helped redeem at least a portion of the episode, instead the suspense in Repression hinges on just when Tuvok will stop acting crazy and put an end to the whole mess.

While many of the early SpockData episodes that emphasized the potential of SpockData characters to go a little loony without being

star trek voyager repression

Mind rape whistle.... mind rape whistle

responsible for their actions were gripping and original, since then there seems to have been hundreds of episodes involving SpockData characters going nuts. ALL THREE of the last three TNG movies have featured a plot in which Data goes off his rocker in a way that makes him threatening or useless to the crew. In Generations, Data’s emotion chip prevents him from stopping Soran thereby allowing the kidnapping of Geordi and all the resulting events. In First Contact Data betraying the crew or not was the climax of the movie. In Insurrection it was the premise. We’ve had more than a few episodes in which the EMH went haywire and threatened Voyager. And now we have Repression, which rather than choosing to at least explore the Maquis or tensions on Voyager, instead hinges the plot on Tuvok going batty. Where TNG’s Manchurian Conspiracy pastiche had the sense to focus the plot not on Geordi overcoming himself, but the crew stopping him in time, Repression expects us to focus on what’s going on behind Tuvok’s face instead.

This worked halfway well with one of Voyager’s top actors, Robert Picardo in Warhead, but even there the onus was on the moral debate between him and Kim and the notion of Kim’s command abilities. Repression has nothing as tangible to pin Tuvok’s transition onto except Janeway tossing out meaningless cliches (and Mulgrew is Voyager’s worst actor). Are we really supposed to believe that the brainwashing that overcame the power of a Vulcan mind and of a Starfleet officer and forced him to commit numerous crimes and rebel against the Federation was completely snapped just by Janeway telling him that he’s in control of his own actions.

Admittedly the notion of using a Vulcan as a Manchurian Conspiracy brainwashing generator is interesting and Voyager has been teasing us with a Maquis revolt for quite some time, only to deliver one now in the seventh season. But ultimately characters who do things while brainwashed aren’t particularly interesting. They’re just robots who stride around and aren’t responsible for their actions and for the consequences of their actions. The Maquis rebellion isn’t remotely interesting because Chakotay and Torres aren’t themselves and aren’t responsible for what they’re doing. A real Maquis rebellion early on in Voyager’s history at the end of which Starfleet and Maquis would have been forced to realize that they need each other and must continue being allies for a common goal might have been interesting, but what Repression has to offer is silly.

On the plausibility front, are we really supposed to buy less than a dozen people taking over Voyager and subduing its crew… and two people then subduing them and taking it back all in a very short time. Janeway ignores Tuvok’s call to Chakotay even though she knows that Tuvok has been mind controlled into mind melding with them and that those crew have now seemingly recovered and are back on duty. Without so much as a struggle Janeway allows her ship to be taken over, herself to be imprisoned in the brig and nearly killed.

All said, the only good points of this episode are a demonstration of what Voyager might have been like commanded by Maquis and a competent Captain and the Maquis plan to dump the Starfleet personnel on a world to start their own colony.

Wonder what they would have called it.

Star Trek Voyager review – Good Shepherd

Toto, we’re not in the Alpha Quadrant anymore!

One of the things that has distinguished Voyager from other Star Trek series, is Voyager’s emphasis on its crew as a family. Unlike previous shows which were part of the greater network of the Federation, no matter how tenuous it might have seemed at times, Voyager is alone in the Delta Quadrant and the crew have nothing and no one to depend on but themselves. This emphasis on the crew as a family versus the crew as professional officers has ranged from the obnoxious to the somewhat acceptable. Ideally we want our characters to be professionals rather than a dysfunctional family sitcom. Still, at the end of the sixth season it is pretty clear that Voyager has been a family of sorts and in every family there are the black sheep and Good Shepherd focuses on the black sheep of the Voyager family.

When it came time to produce the post-TNG series, the first shows not created by Gene Roddenberry, one of the more “edgy” concepts had it Star Trek Voyager good shepherdthat they would feature conflict within the crew, something frowned upon in TNG. And so DS9 and Voyager both kicked off with “A House divided against itself” crews which were supposed to feature conflicts within command and crew. Soon enough those conflicts though vanished. Some speculated that this was because the mostly white male writers were uncomfortable with minority Captains and unsure of how far they could push antagonisms without making those Captains look weak. The results of this have not been pretty.

On Voyager specifically the lack of any real opposition aside from the occasional heart-felt protestation from Chakotay when Janeway is about to do something insane, immoral and illegal. Ironically enough this lack of opposition and conflict has made Janeway not stronger but weaker. Without being subjected to acid tests and cross-examinations, without being tested by conflict Janeway’s

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

"I'm just like jesus"

decisions and actions seem to lack basis and the backing that a decision tested by conflict gives. This is why “Good Shepherd” is such a refreshing change of pace. Ideally on a SF show the dialogue should be far more shocking then the special effects and the “Good Shepherd” dialogue was fascinating not because it was particularly Shakespearean but because a crewmember was actually rude to Janeway and contrary to what the producers had been thinking for six years, she survived.

“Good Shepherd” is by no means a brilliant episode or a particularly stunning one. It is meant to be a minor supporting player in this season’s cast of episodes but sometimes the supporting player walks away with the role and so too “Good Shepherd” is amazing to watch simply because it does what Voyager has been doing all along. It doesn’t tell us that Janeway is a good Captain by casting her in the right aura and keeping her crew silent or giving them strawman arguments or showing Janeway doing everyone’s job at the same time. Instead it simply shows us what she does, command an imperfect crew and interact with them on a human level. Not the “human level” interaction in which Janeway the icon sympathizes with Tuvok or Chakotay while keeping an invisible wall around herself, but seemingly the kind of human interaction Mulgrew has been pushing for.

In what is almost certainly a first for Voyager, Shepherd’s Janeway is not an icon but an accessible, believable commander. She can

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

The antisocial elitist

participate in a no-holds-barred give and take with people who don’t much like her without getting up on a pedestal. She can can contemplate solutions to problems as they pop up and handle people in a way that suggests that is what she does every day and that the events of “Good Shepherd” aren’t particularly notable. Of course the problem is that Janeway doesn’t behave this way every day or ever has behaved this way. “Good Shepherd” presents a likeable, believable Janeway which is almost enough to make us think we’re watching yet another cloned Voyager or an alternate universe Voyager.

From the beginning Winrich Kolbe, who usually directs more high firepower Trek episodes like Scorpion 2, actually gives us a sense of Voyager and the crew’s relationships to each other by pulling away from Voyager and moving around the ship thereby giving us a sense of place for the characters. It’s wonderful, so is the cramped section of Voyager that time forgot and the new Janeway (The only problem is it comes about six years too late). Seven of Nine conducts her

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

The neurotic

crew evaluations and it turns out that in Voyager’s semi-perfect family three black sheep have been overlooked for six years (Possibly there were other black sheep on Voyager once, but they all died at one point or another during the journey).

Mortimer Hammer is a theorist who never puts anything into practice and is a loner on a forgotten deck of Voyager. He hates it here and spends most of his time theorizing about the origin of the universe. Celes is a Bajoran science officer who isn’t particularly competent and has become more so because the entire competent Voyager crew and especially the super-competent 7 of 9 never trusts her to get the job right. She has a neurotic connection to Telfer, a hypochondriac who constantly believes he has new and more interesting diseases. You can imagine how the first two got into Starfleet and the explanations for them being here are actually pretty plausible, but one supposes that Telfer developed his condition only once on board. Still as black sheep these three are not particularly terrible. Hammer is a potentially valuable crewmember with an attitude problem, Telfer and Celes are neurotic but not in ways that can’t be resolved. Casting herself in the role of Jesus, Janeway declares that she’s going to be the good shepherd who will lead them back to the flock and so off

Star Trek Voyager good shepherd

The ditz

we go on our three hour tour…

Of course once we’ve gotten past the bantering, Hammer bizarrely enough claims that nurture and society has no influence on who he is today (I can see 24th century science being altered in some radical ways, but none quite that radical) and has a rude exchange with Janeway that the Captain wins not by trying to dominate and crush her opponents or resorting to cheap rhetoric, but by actually trying to see her opponent’s point of view and responding to it; trouble strikes. A strange weird alien entity whose nature we never discover begins harassing Voyager.

This is the trial that Janeway and her charges have to go through. The Yellow Brick road with Janeway as Dorothy, Hammer as the tin man who needs a heart, Tefler as the cowardly lion who needs courage and Celes as the Scarecrow who wants brains. Modern audiences know that these characters need no wizard to grant them these things, we know that in true Disney fashion they already have them inside themselves and only need a crisis to bring them out. So Hammer Star Trek Voyager good shepherdshows he really has a heart by risking his life to save the crew, Tefler gets his courage by having his worst fears come true and coping with it while Celes finds that she’s not quite as stupid as she thinks.

In a nice touch the alien remains mysterious, Hammer’s action in shooting the alien feels very plausible and the more cliched elements of the crisis are overshadowed by realistic humorous touches such as Celes’s failed countdown. Even down to the end the interactions between Janeway and the trio feel far more real and believable than the usual Voyager interactions. In one sense this is a triumph but in another it also demonstrates the extent to which Voyager has failed to produce a likeable and cohesive cast and crew to be trumped by the hastily thrown together actors of a single episode.

In Good Shepherd, Janeway may be Dorothy the Midwestern girl thrown to a distant land and trying to find her way home back to Kansas, but in future episode it seems more likely than not that she’ll go back to being the wicked witch of the Delta Quadrant.

Star Trek Voyager Review – Riddles

Your average TV drama has a limited repertoire of character relationships. Two characters can be friends, enemies, colleagues or lovers.

star trek voyager riddles

Tuvok, Default Expression No. 2

Mostly they’re the first and the third, during sweeps or when the show has gone on too long they may become the fourth and there are the perennial enemies who make up the fourth. The borders tend to be pretty set and follow a simple formula. But then there are the character relationships that seem to exist somewhere outside the formula: the Tuvok/Neelix relationship would definitely have to be filed under this category.

Both Tuvok and Neelix are strong characters in their own strange ways but where Neelix’s strength comes from how much he cares about his friends, Tuvok’s reservoir of strength, like that of all Vulcans, remains a mystery. Ever since Spock came on board and departed along with the rest of the Original Series crew, Star Trek has tried to duplicate the Vulcan formula with more or less success. Star Trek Phase Two, the follow-up to the original series, which never aired but was eventually transmogrified into Star Trek The Motion Picture, had a Vulcan named Xon. The Next Generation confined itself to two strong guest star appearances by Mark Lenard as Sarek and a somewhat less successful one by Leonard Nimoy as Spock. Deep Space Nine featured some embarrassing and unpleasant moments with their unexplained hostility towards Vulcans and Voyager, finally going where Phase Two was meant to go before, featured a Vulcan as part of the cast.

Despite fears, Tuvok was most certainly not a Spock substitute but something different, an angry, hostile and unexpectedly loyal full blooded Vulcan with an attitude bordering on the fascist. As with all Vulcans and characters intended to represent the “Other”, they’re only interesting when coming up against humanity thus defining again what it means to be human. As a result, such a character is often half-human and struggling with humanity as in the case of Spock or B’Elanna, wanting to be human as with Data and the EMH or afflicted with a superiority complex and rejecting humanity but insecure because of his own rejection by his own people like Worf, Odo or Seven of Nine. These of course are not genuine aliens, merely representations of ourselves that we toy with. A genuine alien character might want very little from us and give just as little in return. Such a character is not very interesting to us and this has been Tuvok’s dilemma all along.

We could not see Tuvok as a Vulcan within Vulcan culture because short of the occasional flashback to childhood there are no Vulcans for

star trek voyager riddles

You know him from guest starring on every TV show in the last 10 years... also The Killing

him to interact with in the Delta Quadrant anymore than there are Klingons for B’Elanna Torres to spar with. These species have a meaning in the Alpha Quadrant but in the Delta Quadrant they are just as alien as we are. And so Tuvok as an alien among aliens remains mysterious, a riddle no one can quite solve, though Neelix spends more than a little time trying. Just as McCoy served as the emotional middleman for Spock, Geordi for Data and Quark for Odo, Neelix does his best to be there for Tuvok whether Tuvok wants him to be or not. And that is where we are at the start, Neelix offering Tuvok a riddle whose answer is completely illogical, a joke, a play on words.

As we have seen frequently on Star Trek and other Sci-Fi shows, logical computers do not understand word play and neither does Tuvok. Neelix’s clingy prodding eventually drives him to his doom when he leaves to get some peace and quiet and is promptly zapped by a cloaked alien here to spy on Voyager. Tuvok is brought back to Voyager with his mind severely damaged and Neelix does everything possible to try and help him recover (possibly because he thinks the whole thing is his fault in the first place, although neither he nor Neelix mention this in the episode), from surrounding him with Vulcan objects or playing him Vulcan music to reading him Vulcan drama. Eventually Tuvok wakes up but rather than undergoing the kind of instant recovery characters on Star Trek usually do, he is damaged. At first even unable to speak and completely devoid of logic he becomes something Neelix is very good at dealing with, a child.

We’ve seen that Neelix is very good with children because Neelix is quite a bit of a man-child himself. Where normal adults communicate on a mixture of emotional and rational levels, Neelix can really only communicate on an emotional level and damaged as he is that is the only level on which Tuvok can now receive and respond. While Janeway and Co. assisted by an alien version of Agent Mulder with Janeway serving as his skeptical Scully investigate the mystery of the invisible octapodal aliens (who are wisely kept far enough in the background for us to want to see more of them instead of overexposing them as the Aliens of the Week), Neelix is forced to try and solve another riddle, the riddle of Tuvok.

While Voyager usually operates on the premises of science and rationality, Riddles’ core premise poses two riddles to which the answers are illogical. First is the X-File mystery of the cloaked aliens in which the Mulder character is of course correct, and second is Neelix’s dilemma of how to make Tuvok a whole Vulcan again. The riddle which frames the episode that Neelix asks at the beginning and Tuvok answers at the end points up that same theme. While Tuvok is correct to apply logic to a practical problem, the problems of characters can rarely be solved using logic but “by eating the dates on the calendar.”

When Neelix realizes that he cannot help Tuvok as a Vulcan instead he helps him survive as a friend and a caretaker, appropriately enough,

star trek voyager riddles

They used to have a commercial for this in the 80's

through food. Before Tuvok can become an adult, he must become an emotionally secure child and it is this experience that Neelix is most qualified to provide for him. As an adult Tuvok retains some of what Neelix has taught him during his “childhood”, allowing Tuvok to see past logic. Tuvok’s achievement in suggesting the Sundae solution is not in the answer to the riddle itself but in finding a way to communicate with Neelix and to respond to him on his level. Meanwhile the Inspector whose quest is just as irrational and emotionally driven as Mulder’s compensates for his unfeeling treatment of Tuvok by sacrificing his life’s ambition for him.

There are different levels of riddles interwoven throughout this episode. The core riddle is of the cloak Tuvok uses to conceal himself from others and is paralleled by the cloak the aliens employ to hide themselves from other species. The solution to both riddles is inherently irrational and illogical and joined as it requires restoring the cloaks used by both the aliens and Tuvok. Nevertheless, the logic to both solutions is an emotional one. By carrying through a deal with the aliens allowing them to feel secure, trust is produced allowing there to be hope that someday the aliens will come out of hiding on their own terms. Restoring Tuvok’s cloak allows him to integrate what he has learned of the child with the adult giving us hope that someday he might be more than just that cowling Vulcan in the corner.

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